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The text of Law's homily

3/24/1984

Following is the text of the homily delivered by Archbishop Bernard F. Law at his Installation Mass yesterday:

However future historians may judge what begins to be unfolded this day, as for the eighth time since its establishment as a See in 1808 the Archdiocese of Boston receives a new shepherd, the graced event of which we are a part will be remembered long after each of us has died. I thank the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, for having appointed me to Boston, and I joyfully renew the pledge of my fidelity and love in the communion which is ours.

This moment cannot pass without a word of tribute to those who have served before me. Fresh in the mind and heart of each of us is the memory of that good, that wise and that gentle shepherd, Cardinal Medeiros. May he, and they, rest in peace.

The Holy Father has said that I am sent to the Archdiocese of Boston as an Ambassador of Christ. This word speaks to the Archdiocese as to how I am to be received, and to me as to how I am to minister in your midst. To the Archdiocese, its laity, religious and clergy, to the auxiliary bishops and especially to Bishop Daily -- my deepest gratitude for the warmth with which you have received me. It is obvious that you accept me as one sent to be in your midst as the Lord's ambassador, and I give God thanks for you and your evident love. It is indeed good to be here.

Archbishop Laghi, you honor the Archdiocese by your presence. You are twice welcome -- both for the favor of installing me as the eighth Bishop of Boston, and for making present in your person our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II.

What a joy it is to be surrounded by family and friends who have been an important part of my rather peripatetic past. You will understand if I single out those who are here from the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau and the Dioceses of Jackson and Biloxi. I am particularly thankful to God that this moment can be shared with my mother.

The welcome presence of brothers and sisters in Christ with whom we share the suffering of Christian division calls forth my pledge to pray, to dialogue, and to work in the quest for that deeper communion which is God's will. I am heartened by the presence of representatives of the Jewish community -- through the Law and the Prophets ours is a strong bond which seeks ever new expression; I speak as both greeting and an urgent prayer that hallowed word, Shalom.

In acknowledging gratefully the presence of federal, state and civic officials, I pledge you my prayers for your awesome responsibilities, and I assure you of my cooperation in those programs which are for the common good.

Every celebration of the Eucharist reveals and brings more fully into being the mystery of the Church. The One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church is encountered in all the particular churches scattered throughout the world. Through the Gospel now being spoken and the Eucharist soon to be shared there is made present in this time and place that Church which is the enduring presence of Christ in the world. "The Church," St. Augustine reminds us, "is Christ extended in time and space." To speak in faith of Church is to speak of Christ. By water and the Holy Spirit we have received both forgiveness of sin and newness of life, that life of which Paul says, "for me to live is Christ."

This liturgy of installation calls this particular Church, the Archdiocese of Boston, to be more clearly the presence of Christ in the world. If His life is to increase in us, then we must decrease -- we must die to sin, we must respond to the Lenten, indeed, to the perennial call of the Gospel to repent and believe the good news. To know more fully the Church we must respond more radically to conversion.

It is of conversion that St. Peter speaks when he urges us to "come to him, a living stone, rejected by men but approved, nonetheless, and precious in God's eyes." Sin is turning from the Lord, conversion is coming to Him. When we turn from sin and come to Him, then we become "living stones, built as an edifice of spirit."

The Eucharist reveals for us the mystery of Church and illumines the relationship of bishop and diocese. There is no Church without Eucharist, and there is no Eucharist without bishop. It is not simply to satisfy a juridic prescription that from this day my name will be spoken in every Eucharist celebrated in this Archdiocese. Prayer for me as prayer for the Holy Father is a sign that those gathered around the various altars of this Archdiocese are one in faith and communion with those who shepherd in the name and in the power of Christ.

The Church which we are is not a universe closed in upon itself. Our worship, this Eucharist, is not a sacred moment in splendid isolation from the rest of life. Conversion does not come to full circle in the life of the disciple. Holiness is not self-seeking. Love remains the touchstone of authentic Christian life, and perfect love leads to the cross of self-denial and even death for the sake of the beloved. Christ is the one loved, and He is encountered in every human person. Pope John Paul II has movingly written that if we hold Jesus Christ in our hearts, we can see Him in the face of every human person.

To come from darkness into the marvelous light of God's love is to see the dawn of a new creation of Christ Jesus; it is to see Him in everyone -- and in that vision to hold out a hope for healing, for reconciliation, for peace. The vision of Isaiah is fulfilled in Christ and in the Church: upon us the Lord shines, over us appears His Glory.

The darkness covering Isaiah's earth, the dark clouds covering the peoples are with us yet. Jesus tells us quite simply that we are to meet that darkness with the light of holiness, with the goodness of our acts.

Darkness, death, sin take many forms. To be the light is to name the darkness. The father of darkness disguises himself as light-he holds out death in the guise of life, misery in the guise of fulfillment, evil in the guise of good.

To be the light shining in darkness we must name the darkness. The darkness must be named whether it be the clouds which shroud the individual conscience in the idolatry of self, in the suffocation of consumerism, in the paralysis of materialism, in the excesses of sensuality, or in the consequence of sinful decisions, in hunger, poverty, discrimination, war, abortion.

Nowhere is the shroud of darkness heavier in the contemporary world than in the sin of abortion. In the beginning God said let there be light. God made us in His own image and likeness. He knit us in our mother's womb. He calls us each by name, and He holds us in the palm of His hand. He loves us with an everlasting love which has been revealed in the redemption -- the saving death of Jesus Christ, His Son. Jesus came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. Yet we deal out death through abortion to the most innocent of human beings. This is, I believe, the primordial darkness of our time; this is the cloud that shrouds the conscience of our world. Having made our peace with the death of the most innocent among us, it is small wonder that we are so ineffective in dealing with hunger, in dealing with injustice, in dealing with the threat of nuclear war.

In naming the darkness, we must speak the truth in love. Like Jesus, our purpose is not to condemn, but rather to persuade, to call to conversion. As Bishop, I see it as my task to teach. Within the community of faith I will call you who with me are the Archdiocese to strive to live out fully our profession of faith. The truths of faith must illumine all our decision; we cannot tolerate the false notion that it can be "yes" in some aspects of our life and "no" in others.

As Church we are meant to be a sign of God's love for all people. As Church we are meant to show forth the living presence of Christ in the world. Mary, in the moment of Annunciation, models for us what this means. The word was made flesh and dwelt among us through her unreserved "Yes" to God. May this first Eucharist which we celebrate together as Archbishop and people help us to show forth the living presence of Christ in the world, help us to be a light shining in the darkness.

This story ran in the Boston Globe on 3/24/1984.
© Copyright Globe Newspaper Company.


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